What happened to the Lightning?

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TAMPA, Fla. | What went wrong for the Tampa Bay Lightning? They started 6-1 and looked like they could run away with the Southeast Division. After Thursday night’s loss at the hands of the Washington Capitals, they’ve lost six in a row.

“It wasn’t a 6-1 team. I can tell you right now,” coach Guy Boucher said after the 4-3 defeat that continued this tailspin. “It’s a slap back to reality.”

It’s hard to find any one reason why the Lightning haven’t won a game since Feb. 1.

“It’s not about one thing. If you’re looking for one thing, no,” said Boucher, who blamed the start of this slide on some scoring frustration. “Right now it’s just fighting mentally and emotionally. It’s not a question of work ethic right now. It’s not a question of Xs and Os. … Right now it’s the mental and the emotional grind of getting through this.”

For the second straight game, the Lightning spotted their opponent a three-goal lead. Tuesday against the Montreal Canadiens, Tampa Bay scored three times in the final six minutes to force overtime and pick up a point.

That didn’t quite happen, as the Lightning fell a goal short against the Caps.

“It’s tough,” said Teddy Purcell, who scored Tampa Bay’s second goal. “We keep digging ourselves in a hole and you can’t come back every game. Obviously that showed tonight.”

It might be maddening for a coach to see his team show so much late in games after not being able to do it earlier, but Boucher can’t dwell on that.

“You can’t recreate that kind of urgency at the beginning of a game or in the middle of a game,” he said. “Nobody does. That’s unrealistic to think that’s what it’s going to be. What I find really hard today is that our players worked really hard.”

This was a “tough one,” Boucher said, because his players didn’t lack mental focus or work ethic.

Work ethic is there, we’re just not working smart all the time,” Purcell said.

The result is a six-game skid and just one point in that time. Boucher said this wasn’t a game he could walk into the locker room after and start pointing fingers or criticizing work ethic.

Instead, there’s only the hope that things will get better by working at it.

“It’s very difficult. It’s very difficult to get up the next day,” Boucher said. “But I’m pretty sure there’s going to be a next day tomorrow. Pretty sure.”

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